It’s difficult to call someone who was 6-foot-4 and 280 lbs. a diamond in the rough. A large gem in the rough would be a more appropriate term to call Brynjar Gudmundsson.
Gudmundsson played left tackle at Wellington High School from 2009 to 2011 and became the most highly touted prospect in the history of the school’s football program. He staved off Wellington’s poor football reputation and made it to Division 1 football. His elite talent earned him an offer from the University of South Florida.
Gudmundsson redshirted his freshman season at USF, meaning he could only practice, not play in games.
On Nov. 3, 2012, he started a game against the University of Connecticut. Entering this season, he is projected to be the Bulls’ starting left guard.
“It was just a little taste, but it was great because my first start resulted in a win, which is the most important thing,” Gudmundsson said of the UConn game. “But coming from Wellington, where we struggled to fill up the bleachers, to playing in front of thousands upon thousands of people, it was different, and it was awesome.”
The list of players who have left Wellington to better their football careers is lengthy. But Gudmundsson stayed, and with the help of Chris Romano, who was then WHS head football coach, and offensive coordinator (now head coach) Tom Abel, he earned a reputation as one of the area’s top lineman. In his junior and senior seasons, he didn’t allow a single sack as the Wolverines’ left tackle.
Abel, a former college offensive lineman himself, helped Gudmundsson with his stance, hitting with explosion, hand placement and footwork. Abel also stressed the importance of weight training and how it would have a major role in his future in football. “I still keep that in mind to this day,” Gudmundsson said.
Gudmundsson credits Romano for his discipline and his “never take a day off” mentality.
Chris Thomas played alongside Gudmundsson and was one of his best friends on the team.
“We were playing in a junior varsity game freshman year,” Thomas recalled. “We were down 7-0 with a minute left, and we were on offense. Everyone is real serious. Then, out of nowhere Brynjar says, ‘Let’s do it for Rudy.’ We watched [the movie] Rudy right before the game. It just showed how, no matter what the situation, he never took life too seriously.”
Both Abel and Romano sent Gudmundsson’s scouting tapes to colleges. Kevin Patrick, at the time USF’s defensive line coach, came to Wellington to recruit him. He got an offer in spring 2010.
“Coming from an historically mediocre football program, none of us really could assess each other’s talent because we were always supposed to be the underdogs on Friday nights,” Thomas said. “So, Brynjar adopted the mindset that he had to keep his head down low and work harder than everyone just to get noticed, while kids at other competitive high schools got the exposure right off the bat.”
Although he didn’t play his first year at USF because of his redshirt status, Gudmundsson won one of the Bulls’ three scout team Player of the Year awards for 2011. And last year, when the Bulls’ left guard was injured on Oct. 20 against Louisville, Gudmundsson stepped in and played the rest of the game.
There have been a handful of players from Wellington to play semipro, Division II and Division III football. But there have been none who have played on as high of a level as Gudmundsson.
“That means a lot,” he said. “And that’s not taking away anything from the other guys playing college ball. Guys like Chris Thomas, Alex Dinardo and Lucus Riebe; they’re all doing great things as well. As far as playing at the higher level, it means a lot. But I’m not any different from those guys.”
ABOVE: Brynjar Gudmundsson (right) defends the rush of Florida State’s Everett Dawkins in a game on Sept. 29, 2012. Photo courtesy Brynjar Gudmundsson